Thursday, April 20, 2017

Lose List: Living as Long as Possible

I have always been afraid of dying. It is such an ingrained fear that when I found out not everyone worries about dying on a daily basis, I was shocked. For me, the threat of death is a constant spectre. I am better about it now. But I still worry. Doubly so now that I am a mother.

When my sons look at me adoringly, my warm mommy heart tries to stay in the moment, but a voice, likely the voice of my lifelong anxiety, whispers, "Oh God, they will be devastated if I die."

Suddenly my own death isn't just terrifying for myself. It is life-changing for two little people. On a fundamental level, their lives, their outlook on life, their worldview, would change. And that thought terrifies me.

Suddenly the unconditional love sons have for their mothers feels sinister and fraught. I don't want them to love me so much because of what it will do to them if they lose me.

Of course part of the nature of fear of death is that it is the ultimate thing out of our control. We can do all the things we think to ward off death--buckle up, look both ways, check for (skin) moles, chew carefully, don't dive in shallow water, drive sober, lock the doors at night, carry pepper spray, knock on wood until our knuckles are bloody--the list goes on and on into absurdity.

But, in the end, death is uncontrollable.

Except when it isn't. And one thing that is hammered into the public's consciousness is that OBESITY KILLS. Obesity increases the risk of death. Obesity harms the body in untold ways.

I have known this for all of my life. I remember being a "tween" (we weren't called that then), sitting at a doctor's desk with my mother. I don't know why I saw this doctor--he wasn't either of my childhood pediatricians. I don't know what brought about this visit. But in the course of it, he said it would be good if I lost some weight (duh). "Carrying around extra weight is hard on the heart." (Oh.)

So on top of my deathly fear that I will die and leave my sons motherless is GUILT. For all my wood knocking and precautions and "be carefuls," I am NOT doing all I can to keep myself around. See, I am eating a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup instead of considering how this extra weight is harming my heart with every single beat it takes to get the blood to every corner of my obese body. I must not care THAT much. GUILT.

But I do care. I care so much it terrifies me. I care so much that before I learned to manage my anxiety, I would be crippled by worry, leading to things like a racing heart, leading to worry that I was actually having a heart attack, leading to a visit to Urgent Care (later marked in my patient portal "anxiety state"), and ultimately leading to a little comfort eating and thus the cycle continues.

I understand that even a healthy weight doesn't guarantee you will not have a heart attack. How many of us shake our heads in shock and wonder that the gym rat died from a "widow maker" [nice] as the treadmill whirred next to his lifeless body. I understand that even this is out of my control.

But that doesn't mean I should just give up. In fact, this entry is at the top of my lose list. There is nothing more important: Live as long as I can for my children. And my husband, of course. And myself, sure. But my kids most of all.

This item on my lose list is the one that needles me the most. The one that makes me most frustrated with myself. If I can't even eat healthy for THIS, what hope do I have? But see, even death is so abstract. I had a high cholesterol blood test in 2016 and it didn't change my eating habits. Because the voice that rationalizes such things (a different voice from anxiety, possibly the one that works so hard to fight the anxiety) says, "This one French fry does not matter. This dinner out won't affect your health THAT much. High cholesterol isn't SO bad."

I am working to keep this item on my lose list at the fore. I am working to remove the guilt from the last 6 years of eating. I am working to cast it in a positive light--Be as healthy as possible--rather than a negative--LOSE WEIGHT SO I DON'T DIE!!!! I am working to feel proud of myself when I make the good choices, and this week I've made a few, so that I can hold onto that and get myself to a healthy weight so if I did happen to find myself on my deathbed (God forbid, knock wood, salt over the shoulder), I could know that I DID do everything I could.

My body is worth treating well. My kids are more important than the taste of mayo. My heart deserves to be cut some slack.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017


Crab has had so many firsts already that I am sure I've forgotten some, even though he's only 5 months old. Here are some of the biggies:

First rollover: February 8, he rolled from belly to back. He's done it a few times since, and he's so close to being able to do back to front, but he's not rolling all over the place yet. He still hates tummy time, so that's not surprising.

First dose of Tylenol: January 2, after his 2 month vaccines. Poor baby.

First bath: About 1 week old. Crab has eczema on his cheeks especially, so we give very few baths at this point. 

First state visited: Pennsylvania.

First cold: When he was 2.5 weeks old. Terrifying and infuriating.

First day of daycare: March 1, his 4 month birthday.

First solid food: Sweet potatoes. He didn't really care for them at the time, but LOVES bananas and this week ate a whole jar of sweet potatoes. He also likes pears and apples. Peas, not so much.

First antibiotic: Amoxicillin, for his first ear infection, March 31.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017


I feel like I have so much to "catch up" on recording with Crab! So let me just talk about cheeks.

His cheeks are so chunky! For a bit of time when he was about a month old, Munch called him "Cheekers." We sang. "What is wrong with the Cheekers, the Cheekers?"

He smushes his cheeks out and I think he's clenching his gums--possibly teething? So cute though.

Not so cute--the streak of red, dry eczema that extends in front of his ear. It's like painful looking sideburns.

But really when I think of cheeks right now, I think of how, when I bring him close to my face, he puts his hands very softly on both sides of my face and touches my cheeks. He's in a "grab and clench" phase, so I expect to feel nails scratching my skin, but no--his touch remains soft. And it's like he's cherishing me as much as I'm cherishing him.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Back (?)

I've been feeling the blogging "pull" for a while now, mostly since about the beginning of the year. I think this is linked to several different things. The birth of our second son. The need for a place to reflect so I can really grab onto something for weight loss. The lack of a "record" of the little one's first years. I read back to posts about Munch and I love how I recorded so much of his life here. I want that for the "new one." I think I will call him Crab here. That may not seem endearing, but for those who know him, it will make sense. It's a good name.

I feel tentative. There are reasons I stopped blogging. I got sick of analyzing every small piece of my life. I wanted to "just live." I sometimes felt like I didn't have anything "worth writing." I got annoyed with some of my readership and was keenly aware of my audience, so I didn't feel like I could write everything I wanted to write for fear of others' judgments and thoughts. For instance, there was a large fight with a family member based on something I wrote and then I remembered later that the post was an assignment from therapy. I didn't tell the person that because it seemed dumb to bring up an old wound, but I still think about that and feel annoyed.

So, there are some things I can do and keep in mind.

1) I won't "promote" this blog among people who know me. If someone happens upon it, fine, but otherwise it will truly just be for me. I got very concerned with "eyeballs" last time and I think wanted to be "seen." I wanted to be part of the cool "mommy bloggers club." Whereas so many people I read back then now no longer write. Now, with more therapy and personal growth, I'm not so concerned with other people seeing what I write and being "accepted."

2) I will write what I feel like, when I feel like it. I won't feel like a failure if I don't write regularly and I won't feel pressured to write "certain types of things."

3) It will be for the joy of writing. I miss writing! I don't know that I truly have time for it, but hey, ya gotta start somewhere.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Long Good-Bye

As I head into daycare to pick up Munch, I make sure that I have my phone, my keys, and that I don't need to pee--because this will not be a run-in, run-out situation.

Over the past several weeks, Munch has wanted more and more to "hang out" when I arrive at school. I wonder what other parents think of me as I sit on the rug in his room as Munch puts me in Circle Time and points at the ABCs poster and sings.

Most kids, when their parents arrive, run to them and then head for the door.

When I arrive, Munch smiles and hugs me, then tells me to go sit on the bench in the hallway, while he goes into "teacher mode," playing in his room and periodically sticking his head out of the door to make sure I'm still there. Eventually, I'll be invited in and we hang out in his room, sometimes for as long as 45 minutes, until it's time for his teacher to go home.

Most parents, when they arrive, swoop their kids into winter coats and hats and skedaddle with nary a look back, hardly a wave at the teacher. In and out. Gone. Places to be and things to do.

And I get that. Some nights, I too have places to be and things to do, not least of them being getting dinner done.

But more often the not, the place I'm whisking us off to be is home, and what does it matter if we get there a bit later than normal? Hubs usually doesn't get home until about 2 hours after I do. Thus, those 2 hours can seem like we're "on pause" waiting for Daddy and for the night to really begin (when, really, the night is nearly over, poor Daddy).

I don't mind the extended pickup. In fact, I'm grateful for it. I am not "offended" that Munch seems content to stay at daycare. I'm so relieved that he's comfortable and happy there. Putting him in daycare was an extremely difficult decision and transition for me, and the fact that he likes it is a blessing.

And, I see it as a way for Munchkin to share his day with me. He's bringing me into the world he inhabits for 8 hours a day. He's showing me how he spends his time and he's also "pretend playing" teacher. This is one of the most joyous aspects. He's "playing school " at school. He takes over his teacher's chair and she gives him the pointer she uses and he "teaches" us. The teacher even joins me on the floor as a "student."

I see this as "showing up" for him. It's a simple thing we do, but I think it fulfills something in him. And it definitely fulfills something in me as I get to hear him say "A is for apple, V is for violin" and sing the daily songs. He's growing up! And I'm getting a peak at all the things he's learning.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Consequences and Coping

Lately, I've been thinking about the consequences of our actions and words, taking responsibility for those consequences, and sitting with negative emotion rather than fighting against it.

My son is at the age when he's beginning to be able to understand consequences. This is hard for me. It's about him pushing limits and as parents being strong enough to follow through on a consequence. For instance, when Munch repeatedly pokes a balloon with something sharp (I mean, not like scissors for God's sake) or lays on top of it and we say he will pop it if he continues, then he continues and pops it, I cannot run out to get him another balloon to stop the ensuing devastation. Actions have consequences.

My mother-in-law has told the story of when Hubs, in a bit of a rage, threw his favorite Garfield toy across the room and the plastic eyes split down the center. Hubs was devastated. He learned, actions have consequences.

Shit happens. And sometimes, we cause the shit to happen. It is hard for many people, myself included, to accept the consequences of our actions, and to "force" others to face the consequences of theirs.

As a mother, as the type of person I am, my instinct is to soothe soothe soothe. And of course when Munch does something dumb and REGRETS it, of course I can soothe him and hug him. But I can't always--and shouldn't always--fix it for him.

When something happens TO him, it will likely be even harder for me. When he doesn't make a team or a friend hurts him, I'm not going to be able to fix that either. I won't be able to remove the negative emotion.

I have an incredibly hard time sitting with feeling bad or angry or anything negative. In my brain, negative = bad = no love. If a family member is angry at me, it used to be, I would roil with anxiety and wring my hands and figure out how to "fix it," even if it wasn't truly my problem to "fix." Now, I'm working on it, trying to be better at COPING.

The ability to cope is one of the biggest gifts I can give my child. The ability to process a problem ON HIS OWN and come up with a resolution or at least lay those bad feelings to rest without pushing them away. This is what leads to a well-rounded adult with a healthy emotional range.

Smoothing out his life will not lead to him being able to cope. Life is hard, life sucks sometimes. He will have to learn that, FEEL THAT, experience that. And know that some problems will be his to figure out on his own, with Hubs and me as a constant soft place to fall when his efforts are not enough and his burdens grow too large. We will be the place to refuel and regroup, so he can dive back in again. This is what I want for my child, what I'm working to give him.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The World Closes In

Yesterday, when I picked Munch up from daycare, he was cowering behind his favorite teacher because he was scared that another boy was screaming.

Munch is in a big "scary" phase right now. Over the weekend, we removed a lamp from his room because it cast a shadow he didn't like. Last night, he wanted a Mickey-head-shaped bottle of bubbles out. And right before bed, a book was banished because it was on his nightstand, which is usually clear, and was "scary." All these items were banished to "Mommy Daddy's" room.

And, admittedly, a severed Mickey head sitting on your shelf may not be the most comforting thing.

So when I got to daycare and found him scared, I wasn't surprised. His teacher, whom I really enjoy and who truly cares for Munch, said, "I told him, 'Be a man, don't be scared.' "

And I smiled a frozen smile, bent over, ran my hand over Munch's head, and said, "It's okay to be scared, everything is okay." My standard line.

And his teacher immediately said, "Oh yes honey, it's okay to be scared."

So many people are going to tell Munch so many things. And I can't stop that. So many people are going to influence his outlook. I know that as his parents, Hubs and I will have a huge role in how he sees the world, but others' views will get in there too.

In this teacher's household or worldview, men may not show fear.

In my household, men feel fear and are free to show it because that's what makes them strong men. Not being afraid to show fear or sadness or loneliness or hope.

There will be other things: Right now, Munch loves pink. He invariably picks the pink ball. He gets whatever ball he wants. And I feel myself bracing inwardly because I know, someday, someone will say, "Boys don't like pink. Get a blue ball."

And will Munch brush this off and say, well, I like pink so I'm getting the pink ball? Or, will he tuck something fundamental down inside himself and stick with blue or green or brown?

He will learn things that "society" believes. Skinny is good and fat is bad. Only weak men cry. If you're not first, you're last. Only dorks read. Coloring is for girls. Don't laugh too loud.

And I will run to sweep up the dregs of these bullshit statements, counter them as best I can by modeling strong beliefs and having open conversations and reassuring Munch that if he likes Sophia the First or Cinderella, then BY GOD WATCH IT.

But the world is many and I am one. And Munch will be who he will be.